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Syria suspends hydropower operations amid low water levels

Outdoors, Water, Railway REUTERS/Rodi Said
The Tishreen dam in the province of Aleppo will be out of service from March 1 to 8

Local authorities in northeast Syria will suspend operations at a hydroelectric dam for a week because of low water levels, two officials said on Wednesday, leaving several million people at risk of power outages.

The Tishreen dam in the northern province of Aleppo will be out of service from Wednesday until March 8, an online statement from Amal Khozayem, co-chair of the energy office in the semi-autonomous region of northeast Syria, said.

Khozayem said the water levels at the dam were “nearing dead level,” or the point at which a dam’s water is so low the pipes drawing water from it are exposed.

Although the dam would not produce electricity, drinking and irrigation water would be available, she added.

Syria has suffered erratic rainfall in recent years that has severely reduced its wheat crop. Similar droughts and wheat shortages preceded the outbreak of protests in the country in 2011.

Last year, levels at Syria’s dams on the Euphrates fell by up to five metres, depleting reservoirs and leaving farmers struggling to access the remaining water reserves.

Hammoud Al-Hammadin, an administrator at Tishreen dam, told Reuters that the Tishreen dam’s suspension could impact electricity provision for seven million people.

In written comments, he said it was a worrying sign.

“We’re in the winter season – when we are supposed to be at peak storage. But today, we’ve reached the lowest water level in the history of the dam since it was flooded,” Hammadin said.